Discover more from The Holler
The one where I chase Rick from Pawn Stars through the streets of Detroit
And a Trump rally for autoworkers without.... autoworkers.
I write this like I’m talking to my friends at a bar. There are typos and occasional embellishments, but no lies. If you’re a lawyer, do not take this seriously… unless that helps.
I was having a tough time finding striking autoworkers at Donald Trump’s Detroit rally for…. striking autoworkers. We were on several picket lines earlier that day and the autoworkers we talked to hadn’t heard much about Donald Trump’s rally to support them. One lady holding a picket sign volunteered simply that the whole bit “sucks ass”.
The venue was an interesting choice. It was a non-union parts supplier, that was not on strike and was located miles away from the nearest picket where autoworkers were… in need of support.
We drove out any way to see what was up on the off chance that Donald Trump was a man of his word. It was a Trump Rally for sure - floats, random drumming, a carnival of patriot swag, shouting, but very few picket signs or identifiable autoworkers.
We hopped out of the truck and started yelling “Is anyone here an autoworker!” We were met with polite shrugs and well-intentioned, but ultimately fruitless directions to where some of the supposed 500 past and present UAW autoworkers advertised might be.
I was talking with a doofy cop on his third or fourth version of “I don’t even know who the autoworkers are” when a black SUV screeched to a halt over my shoulder and a ruckus flared up. Turns out it was Rick What’s His Nuts from the History Channel hit - Pawn Stars.
He wasn’t an autoworker.
We shouted questions and chased him down the street, but the only useful answer we pried out of the Cromagnon Pawn King was that you needed tickets to get into the event. That wasn’t significant until five minutes later.
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It was getting dark and rain was blowing in. Trump’s motorcade arrived with a sea of whirling red and blue lights as we hunted for autoworkers. We were about to wrap it up when some guy mumbled “Who are you looking for? Yeah... I was a UAW autoworker for 30 years.”
He and his wife were standing in the grass getting rained on as the last taillights of the passing motorcade lit them up a bit. They were die-hard Trump supporters from generations of UAW autoworkers and they were trying to figure out why Rick-Whats-His-Nuts from Pawn Stars got into the rally and they didn’t. Alex Press wrote about the answer to that question. Spoiler alert, the rally was a PR stunt that, sadly, worked.
Before the rally, The New York Times ran a misleading article with the headline, “Trump to Woo Striking Union Members in Detroit, Skipping 2nd GOP Debate.” Other outlets followed suit, leaving the public misinformed about the reality of this phony, anti-union Trump party.
But there was one group of folks whom the PR stunt may not have worked on: actual autoworkers.
Tony Monteleone built Ford trucks for most of his life and is proud of it. In our interview, I started a question by mentioning how taxpayers had bailed out the now phenomenally profitable Big Three automakers. He instantly corrected me, “They didn’t bail out Ford.” It was a short sentence about a long story that evoked pride in your work and a sense of shared prosperity that seems to be in question these days.
It’s all up for grabs on the Detroit picket lines. The Big Three automakers, Ford, GM, and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler, Fiat, and maybe even Abercrombie & Fitch/Hollister… who knows?) have amassed $250,000,000,000 in profits over the last ten years.
Compare that to several autoworkers on the picket line who told us that the job once revered as the American middle-class meal ticket was now “a high-paid McDonald’s gig.” Starting pay for Stellantis temporary workers is $15.78 per hour — less than some fast food restaurants — and caps out at $19.28 after four years.
“Record profits, record contracts” is the chant on the UAW picket lines, and it’s backed up by genuine faith in a bold new union president, Shawn Fain. Just a few years ago, the UAW suffered under corrupt leadership, known infamously for dropping $13,000 of members’ dues, in one day, on cigars. Worst than the stogies were the years of concessions brokered by union leadership that seemed more focused on emulating greedy CEOs than delivering meaningful wins for membership.
The corrupt leaders were deposed in a photo-finish election by Shawn Fain and the rank-and-file organizing that propelled him to victory. Shawn is from Kokomo, but not the one former UAW presidents may have scoped out for vacation homes - Kokomo, Indiana. He skipped the college degree and went straight to the assembly line. There were times were his family survived on food stamps.
You might expect caution from a new leader fresh off a close election. No such luck. Shawn Fain is drawing lines, planting his feet, and brawling for the working class. And his members are into it, big time.
Tony Monteleone voted for Shawn. His hardline pro-working-class stance was a breath of fresh air. It’s the same reason why Tony said he voted for Donald Trump and plans to again in 2024. But now, standing outside of Donald Trump’s party that was supposed to be for people like him, watching D-list celebrities from the History Channel walk inside, an age-old question is on Tony’s mind - which side are you on?
Our video with the whole story is below.
This video is the third in a collaboration with a core team at More Perfect Union, Court Fuller, Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen, and Nehemiah Stark. Subscribe to More Perfect Union across all social media for more excellent working-class-centered media.
And the clip where we hunted for autoworkers and only found a Cromagnun Pawn King is here.
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Hello From West Virginia
A lot has happened since the last time I blasted one of these out into the ether. I made the 10-minute move across state lines to become an honest-to-goodness Mountaineer, cleaning and moving a total of three houses in the process.
We were supposed to rent the new house, but a week into that I decided to buy it. The two weeks I was supposed to take off from the newsletter to help the move turned into a month. Sorry about that and thanks for your continued support!
Things are still in boxes, and a new smorgasbord of to-do list items has entered my life on the back of home ownership. But I have new roots in the area where both sides of my family go back generations. I plan on this newsletter sticking around for a while, and the only reason why that’s possible is because of people who fund the media they want to see.
Speaking of West Virginia…
An eviction order for a homeless encampment in Wheeling was set to begin today. It was paused due to a well-organized protest by community members and those affected. The eviction and soon-to-be proposed ban on “urban camping” is part of a similar effort in other communities like Parkersburg and mirrors the callous treatment of homeless people across the country.
I’ll stop here because a great Wheeling newsletter run by Justice Hudson has the story firsthand. Subscribe to Justice’s newsletter here. And follow their newsletter for coverage on the forthcoming urban camping ban.
Even more things about West Virginia…
This is a live look from where I’m posting this newsletter at Camp Solidarity in Matewan, WV as a project of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. Cool people support what their doing, and you can be cool here.